Anxiety and polygraph tests: Will it affect your results? 2023

Anxiety is a common emotion that people experience when faced with a stressful situation or event. It can manifest in various ways, including physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, and rapid heartbeat and psychological symptoms like worry, fear, and apprehension.

A polygraph test, sometimes referred to as a lie detector test, is one scenario that can induce anxiety in many people. Polygraph tests are often used in criminal investigations, employment screenings, and other situations where it is essential to determine the truthfulness of a person’s statements.

However, many people wonder whether their anxiety levels can affect the results of a polygraph test. In this article, we will explore the relationship between anxiety and polygraph tests and whether anxiety can impact the accuracy of the results.

How does a polygraph work?

A polygraph test is a machine that measures physiological changes in the body that are associated with stress and anxiety. The test typically measures a person’s breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and sweat gland activity.

During the polygraph, the person being tested is asked questions that are designed to elicit a strong emotional response. The polygraph then records the person’s physiological responses to these questions, and a trained examiner interprets the results.

The premise of the polygraph test is that when people lie, they experience a physiological response different from when they tell the truth. and by monitoring these physiological reactions, can determine when a person is lying.

Polygraph tests are usually not admissible as evidence in United States courts but are still used in some states and specific situations. For example, law enforcement investigations, pre-employment screenings, and security clearance processes.

How Does Anxiety Affect Polygraph Test Results?

Anxiety can be a typical response to the stress of taking a polygraph test. People may feel nervous or worried about the test’s outcome or anxious about being falsely accused of lying.

There is some evidence to suggest that anxiety can affect a polygraph test. When people are anxious, their bodies produce physiological responses similar to those that occur when a person lies. For example, both lying and anxiety can cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating.

This means that if a person is highly anxious during a polygraph test, the physiological responses recorded by the polygraph machine may be difficult to interpret. The examiner may be unable to determine whether the person is lying or simply experiencing a normal physiological response to anxiety.

Furthermore, anxiety can make it more difficult for a person to maintain control over their physiological responses throughout the test. When a person has no control over their breathing or other physiological reactions, the polygraph device can amplify their responses.

Therefore, a highly anxious person may be more likely to show signs of deception during a polygraph test, even if they are telling the truth.

Reducing Anxiety During and Prior to a Polygraph Test

Suppose you are scheduled to take a polygraph test and are concerned about how anxiety may affect the results. In that case, there are several strategies you can use to reduce your anxiety levels.

One strategy is to prepare yourself mentally for the test. This may involve reviewing the questions that will be asked and thinking about how you will answer them. Consider using relaxation techniques in the days prior to the exam, such as deep breathing, meditation, exercising, and socializing.

It can also be helpful to speak with the examiner before the test to ask any questions and get a sense of what the test will involve. Knowing what to expect can help reduce feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

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